Monthly Archives: July 2007

Baby pigeons and Flash

Picture of the baby pigeonOn the way to a posh party yesterday (that turned out to be really enjoyable by the way) Michele noticed that one of the long-term pigeon nests at New Cross station was filled with babies again. We’ve seen this happen a lot over the years but this time we have them in squab stage, and they’re lovely! Michele was so excited that we decided to go back today and take some pictures. The problem was that even with a 3x zoom, the nest is up so high that we couldn’t get much detail. As we were cooing over them a young rude-boy looking lad sitting nearby with his rudy girlfriend started asking us what we were doing. His reaction to being told about the baby pigeons was not what we expected; he jumped up and ran over with tones of genuine excitement. “He’s mad, he takes pictures of ducks ” his girlfriend shouted. He didn’t seem embarrassed though, in fact he was only too keen to tell us about them as Michele handed over the binoculars.
“I might look like a thug but I love those ducks” he said. Once he’d seen the baldy, fluffy little bird he seemed almost overwhelmed “oh my days!” he exclaimed. I told him the problem we had getting pictures of them and he lunged towards a low wall nearby and within a matter of seconds he was hanging by one hand from an RSJ, feet perched on a bolt, and attempting to take close-up pictures of the baby with his mobile. I handed him my camera and he got a couple of cracking shots. The most stupid thing I did that day was to not think of taking a picture of him in his spiderman pose up that pillar. I’d never have had the guts to do that, especially as my weight is more considerable and may have threatened the entire shelter… Top lad though – thanks whoever you are.

For the past week or so I’ve been playing with Flash Media Server. Getting deeply involved with non-free software always makes me feel a bit dirty, but after a year of writing Winblows software this is like a nice bath. It would seem that Macromedia really knew what they were doing…video in Flash is shockingly easy and yet utterly enjoyable. With any luck the OSS gurus will soon have the whole thing replicated and improved.

Captain Birdseye: Fascist insurgent

Here’s a superb Radio 4 documentary that describes how Prescott Bush (George Wanlker Bush’s grandpappy) planned a Fascist coup to overthrow FDR in 1933.
I suppose it’s hardly surprising; after the direct approach failed, W is currently fulfilling his grandfathers dreams by bringing about a similar state through the democratic “back-door”…
But just look at who else was involved: Heinz, Birds-Eye, Colgate and Maxwell house!
So that’s who those kids are on Captain Birdseye’s ship: the Birdseye Youth. Spreading his aryan, fascist fishfingers throughout the world with his army of pure-bred nazi children.
Next time you fancy cooking up some beans and fishfingers, think again.

Dying for a Drink

Giving up drinking was easy and of course I could have gone on forever, but I didn’t. In fact it only lasted two weeks. Please don’t scoff. The tipping point was receiving another tax bill for money I haven’t even declared yet; you see, these days HMRC have to be extra vigilant with us middle-class muppets because of the enormous amounts of money they need to give to the high earners who can afford offshore banking. Also, they know that we spineless cowards usually cough up without too much aggro. But, I’ve been very good since. It would seem that black tea has a very similar effect on the palette as red wine. Drinking more tea and less wine leads to less tiredness, which in turn leads to more late night TV. Oddly it seems that these days late night TV is when all the good stuff is scheduled, on Freeview at least. So many good films:

Meanwhile the “prime time” schedules have sunk so low that ITV, rather than come up with something worth watching, have the Saturday night slot filled with a celebrity pantomime where we’re encouraged to get nostalgic about how wonderful TV was thirty years ago… It’s like a pathetic public admission of defeat in a suicide note. Even endless repeats of Rising Damp on ITV3 are preferable to a bunch of third-rate gobshites performing revisionist surgery on third-rate TV programmes from the 70s.

BBC 4 is jolly good though.

Good night.

Update: mp3 player

As a follow up to my rant about Dixons, the Matsui MP3 player and the broken CD, here is a brief description of how I fixed it: I bought another one. Hold on though, this wasn’t a cop out! Despite having the same, broken, cd, I extracted the firmware from the new device and constructed an uploader distribution from what was present on the cd. Then I reflashed my old device and bingo – works perfectly. At some point the new player will need reflashing and rather than do so I shall simply exercise my consumer rights and take it back for a refund.
So DSGi loose out on each occasion, purely as a result of their unwillingness to help themselves and their consumers.

Oh yes, I discovered why none of the other firmware worked properly. This device is DRM crippled and the firmware is lamely encrypted…arseholes.

If you have a Matsui 110MR mp3 player that’s broken, mail me and I’ll send you the doings to fix it visit this page. If DSGi get shirty about me distributing the software they should have been giving away themselves then I’ll take them to Trading Standards for knowingly selling faulty goods.

Sullied Be Thy Name

The British girl who took her school to court for not allowing her to wear a “purity ring”, has lost the case and now has to cough up 12 grand. This is, of course, excellent news, but I was more interested in another aspect of the story. Have a look at the article and note the dramatis personae:

  • Lydia Playfoot
  • Michael Supperstone
  • Paul Diamond

Don’t these strike you as being a little unusual ? They could have been invented by Dickens or Brecht.

Michele’s reaction to the name “Lydia Playfoot” was “more like Lydia Oral-play, because that’s typically what these girls do instead.” She has a wonderful way with words. The other night she drifted into the front room where I was watching ‘face the music’ on BBC4. She regarded the TV for a few seconds before turning round and asking “what is this high-brow shit ?”

Made me laugh anyway.

Why the world is broken – Part 4 – Outsourced outsourcing

Here’s a case study that neatly demonstrates everything that is wrong with contemporary business – from the customer’s point of view.
Curry’s sell a cheap MP3 player (110MR), branded as “Matsui”. Neither Currys nor Matsui exist beyond the name; they are simply phantom brands that provide layers of abstration from the actual company that owns both: Dixons Stores Group International (DSGi).
The MP3 player is small and works well but it has a problem: every few months it needs to have its firmware reflashed. This shouldn’t be a problem because it comes with a mini-CD containing the software to perform this simple task. To cut a long and technical story short, it’s my contention that the CD provided is faulty and doesn’t contain the firmware. In fact, I’m pretty bloody convinced that’s what’s wrong.
So, what do I do ? I know I can go back to the shop and get it replaced with another, equally doomed, device. I could get my money back and buy a different device. Or I could just think “oh well, it was only 20 quid, what did I expect ?”
Well I don’t want to do any of those. I want Currys/Matsui to fix the problem so that I and the thousands of other people who are having the same problem can fix their otherwise perfectly functional devices. In fact, my research into this little toy has revealed it to be a surprisingly cool bit of hardware and unbrickable – providing you have the right firmware.
So, my question is, how do I go about fixing this ?
The hardware manufacturer, based in China, does not deal with end users and recommends going to the vendor. They make thousands of other similar devices but the firmware is ever-so-slightly different on each device and after trying 5 different types, I gave up.
Matsui doesn’t even have a website, let alone a phone number or address.
Currys have a website but no firmware downloads.
So, I finally resort to calling one of they many expensive 0870 numbers – they’re already winning.
Several menu options and a long wait later, I am put through to someone. He is not even an employee of DSGi, but an employee of “The Tech Guys” another fake company that is owned by everyone’s favourite public-money sink: Capita. I explain the problem and he has sympathy but no suggestions beyond either taking it back to the shop or calling Currys number again.
The poorly paid staff in the shop, even when at their most attentive, really don’t give a toss about anything beyond putting stuff in the till – who can blame them.
So, I decided to do battle with the Currys’ expensive automated call system again – yet more money to them. This time, after a long wait, I end up talking to another guy in a call center who works for yet another company. He did the usual stuff he’s supposed to do which is advise me to return it for a replacement. I persist in asking for a contact number for their product development division. Of course, not even being an employee of DSGi he doesn’t have that information and instead offers me a postal address…of DSGi’s head office. Thanks, I could have looked that up myself.
So I, and thousands of others like me, now own a useless piece of hardware. Many other people will go out and buy new ones too, that will break. All I want to do is alert them to the problem and maybe even provide a website that allows a download of the firmware so we can all get our little devices working again…but I can’t because the people I need to talk to are hidden within a distant castle keep, the location of which is a closely guarded secret.
Of course, there could be another, more sinister, reason why this is all so difficult: they don’t want people fixing it. You’re not supposed to repair things any more. That is radical loony left behaviour. These days, we are supposed to simply cave in and buy another more expensive product like the good little consumers we are. Well not me matey. I shall NEVER give up until my little device is working again! Muwahahahahahaha!

Touch of Death

A week and a half ago I gave up drinking. My reward has been three days of ludicrously high fevers, stomach cramps, and pains just about everywhere else. Thanks body. It’s probably all of the grapefruit and sodas I’ve been forced to drink in pubs.
Thankfully recent developments in non-penicillin antibiotics have provided me with a disturbingly rapid cure. You never remember how bad being ill feels until you’re ill again. Even now I can’t remember anything beyond lying in bed and moaning, yet at the time I know I just wanted to curl up and die.
Where was I going with this ? I don’t know. Sorry.

Excuse the titles of these blogs but after watching a hilarious sharkjumper of a Quincy episode today (“Next Stop, Nowhere”) I’ve decided to use Quincy episode titles for a while.
God I really should get some sleep and stop spouting this drivel.

Sleeping Dogs

Since the nauseating backslapping festival that was Blair’s last appearance in parliament, there has been a relentless parade of documentaries on TV about him and his legacy. It’s quite tedious but I’ve been watching them all to help me remember what a messianic loony he was; time is a great healer and I don’t want that wound scabbing for a while. It’s been working too.
Tonight BBC2 aired the first part of a TV adaptation of Ali Campbell’s diaries and it really did shock me. I’d expected it to be a load of self-pitying crap covered in a coating of sugary lies but it wasn’t. It was certainly self-pitying and I suspect much of it was creatively embellished (especially the emetic descriptions of Princess Diana), but I was genuinely surprised by how blatant he was concerning Blair’s ruthless, single-minded, desire for power. He openly severed all links with Labour’s socialist core so he could get power. And Labour lapped it up, most of them anyway. The few dissenters such as Scargill looked as bemused and shocked by what was going on as I feel now looking back on it.
A quote I don’t remember hearing at the time summed it up nicely.

“Power without principle is barren, but principle without power is futile. This is a party of government and I will lead it as party of government.”

Blair said it, and Labour applauded! They should have had him sectioned! It sounds like a quote from Mussolini! Soon after that, he got elected. By people like me! Why ? Why did we do it ? I can honestly only think of one reason, and that is because we hated the tories so much we would have done anything to get them out. Deep down we still believed that because Blair was flying the Labour flag (ok, rose) it would still, somehow be ok. I’m so ashamed but at least, in my defence, by the time of the second term I’d realised he was insane, Labour was dead, and didn’t even consider voting for him. What was everyone else thinking though ?
That quote alone should have been enough to scare everyone away. The logical conclusion of that statement is that power is all that matters; even if it involves putting puppies in blenders. What is the point of another party standing against the incumbents if they have no differing principles ?
Ironically (or maybe not), ITV2 showed one of my favourite films, Election, straight afterwards. It’s a film about morals, ethics, corruption and the blind pursuit of power. Hmm.

Fast Feeewd

yuckHave you ever seen a fast food flyer as scary and unappetising as this one (click the picture to see it) ? It looks like the sort of place that would give you a family bucket for use after the meal. You can just imagine the arguments they were having about which of the many varied deep-fat-based delicacies would best represent their establishment

“Pizza is all very well but it doesn’t accurately reflect our full range of culinary expertise! I think we should put the kebabs on the front as well.”
“But what about the burgers ? People like burgers!”
“And the chips!”
“And the fried chicken – don’t forget the fried chicken!”
“And the ice cream for the ladies, don’t forget the ladies”
“Sod it, lets put everything on”

Kebabs, burgers, pizza, chips, fried chicken, fizzy crap drinks, garlic bread, ice cream and oodles of mayo, all bundled together in an huge, emetic, pile. It would have been so much simpler to go outside their “restaurant” at 4am on a Sunday and take a photo of the pavement. I honestly think this flyer could be the cure for obesity in this country – just force all obese people to sit and stare at this for ten hours and they’ll start craving green salads in no time.
If you’ve seen a worse one, send it over to me.